Discovery of a World War II-era Japanese mortar forced the closure of part of Grove Avenue in Palo Alto Monday morning (Oct. 3).
Hal Knowlton, 87, found the 3-inch-diameter shell while cleaning his garage. He took the mortar outside and set it on the planter box, then returned to his home to call police, he said.
"I thought it'd just be boom-boom -- they would just take it away. But the policewoman said, 'Oh, this is going to be a production,'" Knowlton said.
Police closed off the 3800 block of Grove and notified nearby residents of the quiet street they might have to evacuate. The Santa Clara County Sheriff's bomb squad arrived and dismantled the mortar, which Knowlton estimated was about 9 to 10 inches long.
Palo Alto police Officer Marianna Villaescusa said the mortar still contained some powder but it was determined to be inert.
Knowlton said he and his wife have lived in the house since 1966. He served in the Navy and was assigned to the Pacific on Gen. Douglas MacArthur's command ship. It was the seventh ship to arrive in Tokyo after the war, he said.
"I have no idea of how it got there. I never envisioned this," he said, as neighbors teased him about causing a neighborhood ruckus. "There has not been so much excitement since our neighbor fell out of the persimmon tree and he wouldn't get into the ambulance," he said.